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Thanksgiving: A day to share turkey and family medical history

  |   Nov. 21, 2013 at 5:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The acting U.S. surgeon general suggests as families share turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving they should share their medical histories as well.

Boris Lushniak, acting surgeon general, says Thanksgiving is the 10th annual U.S. Family Health History Day, a day to share medical history.

"I encourage everyone to spend time talking with their family members about their health. National Family Health History Day is a great opportunity to draw attention to the importance of sharing family health history," Luchniak said in a statement.

"Both rare diseases and common ones, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, can run in families. Understanding your family health history can help you and your healthcare provider predict your risk for health problems and keep you and your family healthy."

For example, heart disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death in women, can run in families. If someone in your immediate family -- mother, father, sister or brother -- has heart disease, you have twice the risk of developing heart disease as someone without that family history, Luchniak said.

"As a physician, I know that a patient's family health history is an easy, quick and inexpensive way to get a rough estimate of how strongly a particular disease runs in a family," Luchniak said. "Knowing your family health history can help your clinician identify screening and treatment options that are personalized for you."

The revised version of the "My Family Health Portrait" tool is a Web-enabled program that runs on any computer connected to the Web that helps users organize family history information and then print it out for presentation to their healthcare provider, Luchniak said.

In addition, the tool helps users save their family history information to their own computer and even share family history information with other family members. Access the My Family Health Portrait Web tool at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/.

The surgeon general makes the tool freely available to all users. No user information is saved on any computer of the U.S. federal government, Luchniak said.

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